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Lillian Daniel: Did Jesus Ignore Her?

September 27, 2014

A Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, "Mercy, Master...My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit." Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, "Now she's bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She's driving us crazy." - Matthew 15:21-23 

Jesus ignored her? This is a story in which nobody wants to pay attention to a suffering woman, even Jesus. 

Spoiler alert: The next few sentences of the story reveal that Jesus ends up helping her, but that's because she just won't shut up. There's no question that Jesus starts out ignoring her. Why? 

This could be a story about Jesus' divinity. Somehow, with the eyes of God, he had a purpose in ignoring her. Perhaps he knew that next, she would pester the disciples, and that then they would complain about her. Then Jesus would be able to point out the disciples' lack of compassion, he'd heal the woman himself, and they would all go on to learn some important lesson. 

Or maybe the answer is simpler. This could be a story about Jesus' humanity. He ignored the woman because he was tired, fed up, annoyed, hungry or simply in a bad mood. The disciples complained about her because they were just as human. The woman stuck to it and demanded help because she was human too. 

The healing that took place was divine. But Jesus' initial lack of attention to someone in pain seems pretty human. Even Jesus got cranky. 

Here's the miracle. Healing triumphed. God paid attention. And in that moment, the God part of Jesus did too. He stopped ignoring her and paid attention. Even Jesus gets to grow and change. 

Dear God, help me to pay divine attention to people as you pay divine attention to me. Amen.


From UCC's StillSpeaking Devotional. Visit

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